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James Mandel, Ph.D.



James (Jamie) Mandel is a Principal at Rocky Mountain Institute, working in the electricity practice. He focuses on disruptive and emerging technologies, including solar, storage, smart controls, and microgrids. Highlights of this work include economic analysis of solar and battery systems, analysis of the value of distributed storage to reduce grid costs, and developing business models based on flexible demand resources.  Jamie also plays a leadership role in RMI’s work with communities, which includes the city of Fort Collins.  RMI worked with Fort Collins Utilities to develop a new, customer-centric business model and with the City to develop and pass a plan to reduce 80% of its emissions by 2030.  


From 2009-2013, James was an engagement manager at McKinsey and Company in Philadelphia. James served Fortune 500 companies in energy, chemicals, manufacturing, and high tech sectors on operational and strategic issues. He was also a fellow in the Sustainability and Resource Productivity practice focused on efficient manufacturing in process-based industries, as well as developing new sustainability business lines.  In addition to working with companies, James also served city, state, and federal agencies on large-scale transformations. 

From 2004-2009, James earned a Ph.D. in ecology and evolutionary biology from Cornell University, focusing on animal movement patterns in response to changes in weather. Concurrently, James served as an associate with Advanced Conservation Strategies, a non-profit devoted to developing market-based solutions to conservation challenges. From 2002-2004, James worked for the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama as Systems Manager for an Automated RadioTelemetry System (ARTS) for tracking rainforest animals.


  • Princeton University, Bachelor of Arts, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, 2002
  • Cornell University, Doctor of Philosophy, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, 2009; Minor (2-year traineeship) in nonlinear dynamics and systems thinking

Select Publications & Presentations

  • Mandel JT, Donlan CJ, Armstrong J (2008). A Derivative Approach to Endangered Species Conservation. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution.
  • Mandel JT, Donlan CJ, Wilcox C, Cudney-Bueno R, Pascoe S, Tulchin D (2009). Debt investment as a tool for value transfer in biodiversity conservation. Conservation Letters. Selected as finalist in the Marketplace on Innovative Financial Solutions for Development Competition sponsored by the Gates Foundation, World Bank, and Agence Française de Développement.
  • Donlan, CJ, Mandel JT, Wilcox C (2009). Why Environmentalism needs high finance. Seed Magazine.
  • Cabrera DA, Mandel JT, Andras J, Nydam ML (2009). What is the crisis? Defining and prioritizing the world's most pressing problems. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution.
  • Donlan, C. J, C. Wilcox, J. Mandel, L. Rodriquez. 2009. Opportunities for using debt investment to link livelihood improvement and environmental conservation initiatives: A case study examining the tropical Pacific. Report prepared for CSIRO.
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